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5 Ways to Build Your Network While at University
Your time at university will pass in a blink of an eye. Class, exams, social life, your commitments add up, and before you know it, commencement will be here. Then, you’ll start the career that you’ve worked so hard to achieve! One of the best things you can do while at university is to begin building a professional network. Here are five easy ways to build a network while at university.
1. Be active on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn can be a low-commitment, high-impact way to build your network. There are several benefits to using LinkedIn. Have you ever collected business cards before and then thought, “What should I do with them now?” Connecting with those contacts on LinkedIn is a great idea. It can serve as an electronic database of contacts for you. It is also a great practice to begin following companies that are of interest to you. Many will post updates on company progress, industry updates, and even job and internship opportunities. Following companies, you would like to work for is a great way to gain knowledge and perspective for future interviews!
2. Attend job and career fairs.
Your campus likely hosts a career fair each term. Attend as many as possible during your time at university. Brief conversations with professionals from industry and companies of interest will help you understand the job market, company needs, and provide insight into job opportunities and hiring timelines. A big mistake many students make when attending these fairs is going in without a plan. A list of companies that will be in attendance is usually listed online before the career fair. Do your part to research a few companies and develop a plan of five companies you are most interested in talking about to maximize your time. For more tips on making the most of job and career fairs, be sure to read the article “Stand Out! – 10 Career Fair Tips for Students.”
3. Frequent local networking events.
Did you know that most towns and cities have free professional networking events? That’s right, they won’t cost you anything but can pay big dividends for you in the long run! It is refreshing for established professionals to see young students attending networking events. They will enjoy sharing their professional journey, current career, and providing an industry perspective. If you commit to attending once a month, you’ll see strong relationships and trust begin to form. When it comes time to search for a full-time job after university, these contacts will be invaluable! How do you find these events? A few of my favourite ways to find free, local networking events is by searching on Eventbrite. I bet you will find a LinkedIn Local (in-person, local networking events) or a Young Professionals Networking group within minutes!
4. Volunteer, job shadow, or complete an internship.
One of the best ways to build a professional reputation and network is to get involved in the industry. Whether you volunteer your time, complete a job shadow, or secure an internship, all of these experiences make your CV stand out. They also help you build lasting relationships and connections with industry professionals. Graduating from university is no longer enough to make you a competitive candidate. Employers want to see relevant involvement and work experience while you were obtaining your education.
5. Join an organization on campus or in the industry.
If you are reading this blog post, chances are you are either involved with Women in Work or thinking about becoming involved! Brilliant! Organizations such as Women in Work provide you with many opportunities to network with professionals and gain valuable contacts. Also, the networking opportunities allow you to achieve incredible insight, encouragement, and support from like-minded women. Another option is to seek out organizations with the industry you will be joining post-graduation. For example, if you are studying engineering, you might consider becoming a member of the British Engineering and Manufacturing Association or the UK Engineering Council. A quick Google search will help you identify organizations in your industry. Many of these organizations encourage students to get involved by offering free or discounted memberships as well as reduce-rates for professional conferences and workshops. Finally, another benefit of joining an industry organization is the opportunity to highlight your involvement in your CV and demonstrate your commitment to your industry and your professional development.
Which one of the actions above can you take this term to begin building your professional network? Besides the useful contacts you will gain, over time, you will notice improvements in your confidence and communication skills. Time spent networking is never wasted!